How to organise a kick-ass Hens/Bridal party!

I love organising events. It combines my project management skills along with an inbuilt need to insure everyone has a brilliant time.

I recently volunteered to throw my sister a combined Hens/Birthday party. I volunteered (crazy I know!) My sister has opted to by-pass bridesmaids for the wedding (bummer!), but in the past had organised some awesome events for me.  I really wanted to utilise this opportunity to return the favour.

Throwing a good Hen’s party seems to be a rather unappreciated skill. I’ve heard horror stories of lost brides, regrettable actions, women over toilet bowls, in-laws offended, horrific expenses, seedy bars, even seedier entertainers, on and on it goes. I wanted none of this for my little sister. The phrase “not on my watch” comes to mind so I set out to plan a kick-ass hens party and below is how it was done.

    1. Step One. Know your bride!
      You may be related, or she may be your BFF, but do you REALLY know her? Do you know whether she likes to be in the lime light or is she more comfortable as part of a group? Does she prefer loud and crazy or intimate and sombre? Know your bride. The event is for the bride and should accommodate her personality rather than your own.

 

  • Step Two. Remember, your style is not their style.
    This step is pretty logical but is so often overlooked. Your preference on the venue, decorations, entertainment, activities, food, drinks – well it may not be your bride’s cut of tea, or your guests. If in doubt, see step one – know your bride.

 

 

  • Step Three. Assess the guest list.
    How is the spread of ages and relationships to the bride?
    A diverse age mix can make for an awesome evening but it will require a little more consideration into activities and entertainment to insure they are suitable and enjoyable for all involved.
    Maybe some of the guests have small/young children? Are any of them elderly or unavailable for night time activities?
    It may be possible to split your function into day activities and night activities which is what I did recently to insure I accommodated a diverse mix. For the day activities I included a touch of luxury and elegance that was suitable for any age and any connection to the bride (parents, friends, in-laws). With full disclosure to all the guests, I then planned the evening activities with a touch of naughty. My sister is younger then I and quiet the dancer, so I also included opportunities for her and her friends to get their Beyoncé on! Some of the older guests are choosing to attend the day activities then disappear for the more risqué night time events.

 

 

  • Step Four. It’s all in the details.
    A great party includes relaxed, stress free, happy guests.
    How did I achieve this? Basically, it’s all in the details. For example, do your guests need to travel to/from the party? Do they need flights or accommodation? Is there parking? What about child minding? Do any of the guests have problems walking long distances? All of these things are helpful to know and share with the guests to make the experience as easy as possible.
    For the event recently organised I provided a document that included “important details” to accompany the invitations. The document contained thumbnail images (plane, hotel, food, drink) for easy reference and shared information about how much the bride knew (and what to keep a secret), flight options and pricing (as this party is interstate), accommodation suggestions & pricing, child minding options, full detailed itinerary of day & night activities, requests for dietary information (if anyone is vegetarian, etc), gift ideas, disclosure around A.O. elements, walking distances, event dates and all my contact information. Anything I thought I would need to know about the event if I was a guest, I have provided. The guests will all know what to expect, where to be, and how to find us if they are delayed on the day. Happy guests = happy event = happy bride.

 

 

  • Step Five: First impressions count.
    The first impression people will receive of your event is of course the invitation. If your invitation looks a bit ho-hum, that is what your guests will think of your event before even arriving. Most importantly the invitation MUST include all the critical details (time, date, location, contact information). Guests will often print out an invitation to keep on the fridge or in their diaries as a reminder. Put all the critical information in this single document so that if they never go back to your “important details” document, they can still arrive on time and in the right location with just their invitation in hand.

 

(For anyone needing further information on invitation designs or my design services please leave a comment below – I am happy to provide design ideas and suggestions).

 

  • Step Six. Plan a decoy
    If your event is to be a surprise, or has a surprise component,  it is often wise to construct a decoy event to keep your bride guessing. As I engaged with my sister in casual conversation about her thoughts/preferences for a Hens party back in the planning phase, I intentionally referenced things that appeased her requests but were not what I actually ended up organising – similar, but not the same. Keep her guessing and keep your quests in on the secret so you can all enjoy her surprised expression on the day.

 

 

  • Step Seven. Know when to just let go and enjoy.
    Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. A limo doesn’t turn up. A restaurant messes up the booking. The entertainment is late. Something will most likely buck your plan on the day. Just go with the flow. Smile, laugh and just roll with the punches – the bride will think it all went perfectly to plan even if the opposite is true as long as you stay calm. You are there to have a good time too and come the big day, whatever unfolds will happen whether you stress and panic, or simply smile and have another sip of champagne. Don’t let one small detail ruin your carefully executed event. Take a deep breath, look at your bride and grin – “it’s all part of the plan!”

 

Happy planning and happy partying!

How to read more, and 5 reasons why you should!

I love to read.

I am a self-proclaimed book-tart. I love everything about books but if I had to narrow it down to one thing, I would say I love that reading has the ability to slow my mind to a single string of self-dialogue while simultaneously educating or entertaining me. Amazing!

Book-tarts such as myself, well we read ALLOT!

I am usually reading several books at a time – there are so many great books out there!

I’ve been asked how it is possible to read so much on top of all my other commitments so below are some of my tricks and tips to help fellow book-tarts get more words into their day.

  1. Use public transport. I have a 20min commute to and from work that I can utilise 5 days a week. Any day I catch the bus gives me 40mins of pure blissful reading time and because it is to/from work, I often choose books that are business related or inspirational to help get me in the zone.
  2. Reading in bed. The time you can use for reading in bed is unlimited. How many times do you choose to watch a ho-hum TV program just before bed only because you have nothing else you want to do before sleeping? Well now you can get stuck into that pile of books you are accumulating on your bedside table! I usually get in a good 30 – 60mins of reading before I doze off. I often choose a lighter book, something humorous or fictional, so my brain does not get too over stimulated before sleeping.
  3. Keep a book in your bag. Waiting rooms, morning coffee breaks, solo lunches in the park, all perfect opportunities to whip out a good book and kill some time enjoying the written word.
  4. Flights – no need to go into this one in detail, but reading on flights is heavenly. Minimal interruptions. Snacks and drinks provided and good reading lights. Brilliant!
  5. Mobile devices + kindle – now books are portable and light – oh the beauty of technology. I still prefer printed books but some of them are huge and too heavy for carrying in a hand bag. Those books I will generally keep on my kindle ap for times when I find myself with unexpected free minutes.

Now if you want some motivation to get reading below are a few quickies;

  1. The book is ALWAYS better than the movie. It’s unavoidable really. Books speak to us and engage our own imagination and therefore the characters are different for each individual reader. Movies dictate what the characters look like and often that their depiction does not resonate with all of the audience. PLUS, you can only achieve so much storyline in 2 to 3 hours of footage. The books always include more detail and ability to visualise our own scenery and characters.
  2. Reading broadens the mind and self-educates making you better informed. I often read opposing books on a single topic just so I feel I have both sides of the argument. It’s a great way to feel up to date on a topic. Give it a go!
  3. Join a book club. They usually meet monthly which gives you 4 weeks to get through the chosen book. They are great social opportunities too for us book worms who are generally quieter in nature.
  4. Give yourself a deadline. Pick one that is realistic. If it is a light hearted easy to read book, maybe 1 week is long enough for you. If it is something more in depth, maybe a fortnight. Give yourself a reason to stick to the deadline. Write a review on amazon or your blog once you are finished letting the world know what you thought of the book. Share the deadline with a fellow bookworm and then compare notes at the end. Whatever keeps you moving from line to line on the page
  5. Need more? Head over here for 10 ways Reading improves your mind.

Enjoy 🙂

Tips before buying a Vespa.

It often surprises people to know that I have a motorcycle license and not a car license.  This is possible in Australia, but only in New South Wales. The reason for this eventuating in my life is simple. I was raised extremely independent and moved out of my mother’s home at the age of 17. Although I could have had access to Mum’s car at 16, driving was not a priority for me. I had my Higher School Certificate to pass, a university to be accepted into, and I worked outside of school hours to earn cash plus looked after my siblings. Oh and I tried to enjoy my teenage life in my spare time *grin*

I made it to the age of 25 before I caved. I was sick and tired of relying on public transport for most of my travels, and/or my friends. I did not have access to a car nor someone I trusted to teach me without yelling at me (ha ha) … so I bought a scooter!

Picture showing SonyaMadden (me) on day one of scooter ownership

In Australia at that particular time gaining your motorcycle license required passing a computer based test and completing a “how to ride” course over a weekend. I passed with 100% for both tests and bought my first set of wheels – a Bug Espresso which was a lovely dark red (shown above). The little Espresso had a short life with me after I ambitiously decided to do a 1000km scooter club ride. The Espresso only made it about 800 of those kms before blowing the motor and leaving me stranded on the side of a highway. The scooter was about 5 months old at the time.

Picture showing my dead scooter after blowing the motor

Some would say that scooters were not made for those kinds of distances but I would not admit defeat!

It was not the distance but the vehicle!

I opted to raise the bar and purchased my first Vespa – a ‘Diamond White’ Vespa GT200. The reason for crossing to Vespa was quality. The little Espresso was a 150cc air cooled cheap entry point into the joy of riding. But as I soon discovered, air cooled means no temperature gauges or ability to know when the motor is cooking till it goes “BANG!” somewhere on the highway. Vespa, aside from being stunning to look at, come liquid cooled and include a temperature gauge. I convinced myself I was learning from past mistakes rather than buying a brand…. AND opening up a whole new WORLD of after-market parts *Grin*

Vespa GT200

I loved everything about owning a scooter – even while I was with the Espresso. I was offered weekend work at the local Scooter store where I could look and learn scooter stuff all weekend. It was great! I loved the lifestyle. I loved the scooterists. I loved it all.

I ended up leaving Sydney and lived for 2 years in rural areas. This prompted me to move into the world of motorcycles – selling my lovely Vespa and purchasing a Suzuki SFV650 naked sports bike. The bike was as Vespa looking as it could get – described as a ‘café racer.’ It was fairly clear to me in hindsight though that this transition too would be a short lived relationship.

2009 Suzuki SFV650

I had my first accident on this little beauty which rattled me to say the least. It took 3 months to repair the bike (I made a quicker recovery thankfully) but that was just long enough for me to allow fear to creep in to my riding experience. Although I did keep riding the bike for another year, I no longer enjoyed the experience. Once I moved back to Sydney I decided to sell the Suzuki so I could discover my love for scooters once again.

Hello VESPA!

Since I last owned a Vespa (which was a GT200) Vespa have upped the ante now making a 250cc AND a 300cc. Coming off a 650cc bike I was instantly drawn to the 300.

I must make note that with Vespa, you pay for the name.

For example: My sports bike, which had 650ccs, all the modern gadgets, a sports exhaust and awesome dual colour paint, is about the same price as the new 300cc Vespa. Crazy I know.

There is a big different for me between riding a bike and riding a Vespa in terms of experience AND below are a couple of other factors that tip the scales for me to Vespa.

Firstly… on bikes I really had to work hard. Bikes are made to get somewhere fast. They are all power and in the case of the SFV, it was all mid-range power meaning no guts at low rev’s but once she hit mid-range, she was off. On the open road this is fun, fun and fun but in Australia we are speed limited to maximum of 110km/hr. Let’s just say I had a few close calls where I passed police vehicles doing allot more than 110 and I’m fairly sure the only reason I didn’t lose my license is on a bike, I can only hurt myself…. Or maybe because I am female *wink*

Because of their power and weight a motorcycle is a fair bit of work for someone like me to stop on short notice. The Suzuki took allot of effort to pull up and if I had a pillion passenger, well it was the equivalent of doing a weight session in the gym trying to get the bike to stop.

When I bought the bike I was living in an area that had lovely open roads, high speed zones and minimal traffic congestion. When I moved back to Sydney, the bike was too much hard work in peak hour traffic and she had not gotten past 3rd gear (out of 6) in months.

Vespa’s are light (-er then bikes… Vespa are in fact one of the heaviest scooters in the market) and pull up exceptionally quick. Being that they are automatic they also do better in heavy traffic. No more gear changes, just stop, go, stop, go.

Other advantages I have found exploring bike verses scooter is that scooters park easier. My motorbike did not have a centre stand so always needed a flat or near flat surface to park on. Usually this okay but those times when it’s not, has your circling block after block just trying to find somewhere to stop. Annoying!

My bike also had ZERO storage. You can fit a top box to the back but in my opinion, they look daggy. Vespa has under seat storage, the option of the additional top box on the back (colour matched) AND come standard with a rear rack. I also managed to ride and balance several shopping bags between my feet on the GT – BONUS!

Cost wise – the scooter is cheaper for me to service, insure and register.

Now I must make mention that my Vespa ownership was tarnished with an ongoing mechanical issue….grumble, grumble.  I discovered the problem not only affected me but a number of GT200 owners around Australia at that time (2006 – 2008). At low speed the Vespa would make this horrid noise like a belt was slipping LOUDLY and would continue to scream until the motor increased its rev’s OR the motor had an opportunity to cool down. I spent allot of money on performance parts and mechanic’s to try and fix this problem and eventually just learnt to live with it. If I took off really quickly often the engine didn’t have a chance to scream…. Problem somewhat solved.

Now because the distributors in Australia are just that, distributors (not the manufacturers), trying to claim the problem under warranty proved useless. They simply swapped what they thought was the offending part, with an identical part and claim their work was done. Of course a few km’s up the road and the problem returned. Thankfully Vespa have become increasingly popular in Australia ESPECIALLY in Sydney. After venting my frustration online I was able to trial a few solutions that had worked for others. Once I left the hustle and bustle of Sydney traffic, the problem did end up going away.

There are some great advantages in owning a motorbike but for me, Vespa is where it’s at. I love the convenience, the comfort, the storage, the entire lifestyle package I get to dive back into.

This weekend I’m off to see what the Vespa GTS 250cc and the GTS & GTV300 are like to ride as I contemplate my next purchase.

If you are thinking of going to two wheel transport I hope you will see that my conclusions have come from trial and error and are only my experience. I did work in a Scooter store for almost a year, and worked full time in a motorcycle store for 12 months. I am in no way a mechanic; I just know what I enjoy riding and what felt good for me at the time. Ultimately it is a personal choice – go with what makes your heart sing J

Happy riding!

SonyaMadden riding Vespa

P.S. This is not a history of all bikes I have owned or ridden… just the ones I loved the most 🙂

Shhhh!

(Gossip)

I listened. I consoled. I watched tears form in her eyes. She was describing a scenario playing out in her life triggered by gossip and I felt her pain.

As this soul confided in me my mind started wondering ‘why do we do this to each other?’

We know gossip hurts. We know that when we succumb to the tantalising lure of a juicy piece of gossip we are not speaking with integrity – but we do it anyway.

I often find myself being caught in, or trying to resist, the draw of gossip. It’s not something I am proud of when I fall into the pattern. It is not as frequent as it used to be as I am now aware of the pain it can cause. I do my best to not spread gossip however sometimes it happens, usually without me being conscious, just talking for the sake of making noise to fill the space. The hardest times are when you know gossip is moving through the souls of people around you AND it is about you. So begins the dilemma of wanting to uncover the secret verses ignoring it so it will hopefully go away.

I find myself looking at people differently when I see them caught in the cycles of gossip. I look at them thinking “this is not you, you are so much better than this.” But I am only looking and internally thinking, I rarely vocalise which benefits no one.

Of course when I am aware people are sharing gossip about myself then my feelings are also sprinkled with resentment, anger and hurt.

I am the type to just let gossip take its natural course. I am usually conscious of when gossip is flying around about myself. It’s often impossible to not be aware of it. Conversations abruptly end when you come within ear shot. Whispers follow you from room to room. Eyes watch as you attempt to carry out your daily tasks trying to ignore the distraction. I find through ignoring it the problem usually runs its course until eventually I, or the people involved, no longer care and it disappears. Sometimes I have confronted the gossip which has resulted in an all-out argument. People don’t like being called on their stuff. They jump on the defensive or they attack to deflect responsibility.

As I watched this woman swallow back my tears and try to reassure me she would be fine after she had time to process, I was reminded of the pain that occurs in not just me but others when gossip is in full swing. I made a silent promise to try and be the end point of any gossip that comes my way. I cannot stop others passing it on but I can stop it spreading any further then myself.

I don’t know it if I will be flawless but I’ll try.

 

 

Time to decide

I recently finished reading Chris Guillebeau book “The Art of Non-Conformity” and promptly bought his latest release, “The $100 Start Up” which I have been reading each day during my bus commute to the city. Below is a portion of Chris’s latest blog post which I found hugely inspiring  and wanted to share.

I write a lot about legacy projects, and what I believe is a core need to focus on what we’ll make with the our lives. The related theme to this is urgency, the need to seize the day and make our time count for something.

I’m on the road again now, meeting with fun people every night and hearing good stories of change.

It challenges me. I don’t get every talk right, and I’m tweaking as I go. There are a few things I wished I had done differently in setting up the tour.

But I made the decision, and I’m moving forward. Another day, another city. In the down time I work on other projects, always making a little progress at a time and thinking about the next thing. It’s fun, it’s worth it, and what else would I do? That’s right, nothing.

What decision to act can you make right now?

http://chrisguillebeau.com/

 

While reading “The Art of Non-Conformity” Chris’s notion of a legacy project really hit me. I suddenly realised that I was now in my 30’s and had left almost no evidence of my existence in this world. Talk about treading lightly. This was a sobering thought. I begun thinking of ways I could change this. I wanted to help people. I wanted to know that I could touch lives and help others achieve their dreams. I am still contemplating ideas about how to best achieve this but decided rather then continue contemplating it was time to just get on with it. I would try something and just see how it went. I can adjust it later or try something new.

By making big decisions recently I have felt more in control of my life and enjoyed the opportunity to exercise the decision making part of my brain  for my life. I’m going to a small workshop tonight on writing about emotions after making the decision to write more about 4 weeks ago. Even though today I am tired after sleeping poorly I am still motivated by the fact I have something new and exciting to do later today. I am glad I made the decision to enrol in the class.

About 3 weeks ago I also made the decision to quit smoking – WOOT! Admittedly I was not a “full time” smoker but I was still glad to be rid of the habit from my life.

2 weeks ago I made the decision to start this blog and explore more writing. I enrolled in a few workshops/classes that are scattered over the next few weeks to keep me motivated and inspired.

Some decisions I am still contemplating and researching. Currently the dilemma of whether or not I should commit to an MBA is forefront. I will make the decision soon and have set myself a one month time frame to research all other options.

What decisions are you delaying and why?

What decisions have you made recently that gave you a sense of empowerment?

My Leadership challenge

On Saturday I attended a Soul Collage workshop hosted by a dear friend of mine, Suzanne Naseby. This was only the second time I have been able to attend a Soul Collage workshop even though I love the experience. Too often I am distracted by day to day activities and do not keep events such as these a priority in my life. It’s a lesson I seem to need to learn more then once 🙂

I won’t describe the Soul Collage process (there are books, a DVD and workshops you can attend) however I wanted to use a discovery from the workshop as the starting point for what I am calling “My Leadership Challenge.”

Many years ago I participated in a Shamanic full day workshop and during the workshop the group was led on a guided meditation to see if we could make contact with our totem animal/s. I am a fairly visual person. The form of a large grey wolf came to me quickly and easily during the meditation. At the time I was secretly thrilled. To me a wolf was what I deemed to be a “cool” totem animal (my own judgements playing out there). I saw the wolf as strong, powerful, and wild. Of course I was being a little superficial (or allot!). The wolf’s power runs much deeper than their reputation.

Wolf Totem (courtesy of http://www.animaltotem.com/wolf.html)

Wolves are the epitome of stamina, known to run 35 miles a day in pursuit of prey. They are highly misunderstood animals, who have gained the reputation of being cold blooded. In reality wolves are friendly and social creatures. Aggression is something they avoid, preferring rather to growl or create a posture to show dominance.

Even though living in close knit packs provide wolves with a strong sense of family, they are still able to maintain their individuality. Wolves represent the spirit of freedom, but they realize that having individual freedom requires having responsibilities.

Because wolf is a teacher and pathfinder, he comes when we need guidance in our lives. Those who have a Wolf Totem will move on to teach others about sacredness and spirituality. Wolf can also teach how to balance the responsibility of family needs and not to lose one’s personal identity.

Wolf teaches us to develop strength and confidence in our decisions. He shows we will learn to trust our insights once we learn how to value our inner voice. This wisdom keeps us from inappropriate action. If wolf appears in your life examine where you need to develop more confidence and if you need more balance between friends, family, and yourself.

How this relates to me is that I have very real sense of fear around leadership and teaching. I have been avoiding it in most areas of my life for years. I am a master at convincing myself that it is because I am much better at ‘supporting’ other leaders achieve their dreams, then standing up myself. I am also convinced that to teach or lead, you must be an expert. I have begun to recently understand that this is just a story I have told myself and is in no way the reality of the situation.

During the Soul Collage workshop we passed around a deck of cards titled “Creature Teachers” by Scott Alexander King. We each took a single card and were asked to reflect on what they meant to you. As my turn came round I used my little mantra/pray/request I often utilise when I want to ”connect” and requested that a card come to me and communicate a clear relevant message to me for now.

I shuffled the cards and took a deep breath to ground. Shuffled some more and felt the familiar sense of “STOP!” which is what happens for me when I use divination tools such as cards. This is my indication I have the right card. I flipped the card over and there she was – the grey wolf. I smiled and raised my face to look at the group somewhat embarrassed as all eyes were on me.

I did not need the meaning of this animal read to me which was what our facilitator had offered during this exercise. I was so familiar with what the wolf represented I quickly recited the key messages to the group. I was in a way encouraged to see the wolf again although it clearly meant I was still in need of wolf energy and guidance, even after all this time. It was a reminder that I was still running.

“My leadership challenge” is to stand and face my fear around leadership and embrace the wolf teaching to see where it takes me and what journey unfolds.

To lead and/or teach (for to me they are very similar) is a gift that I feel other people have but it is clear there are lessons for me to learn here which I am ready now to explore.

I have personally committed to researching and learning more about what leadership means to me and to others. To self-educate on ways one can lead and I’ll share those findings here with you as I am aware that not only is fear common in all people, but often the fear to lead or be seen as a leader, is also something most can relate too. Leadership comes in many forms and through self-education and exploration I plan on obtaining a better understanding of the forms and my resistance around them.

30 Day Vegan eCourse

About 6 weeks ago my dear friend Leonie gifted me with an enrolement to the 30 Day Vegan eCourse. I was so so excited!

I have dabled in veganism several times previously and although I start strong and do really well for a few weeks, there is one thing that all trips me up – cheese! Cheese is my weakness in this world. I have kicked cows milk from my diet and now drink mostly almond and sometimes soy milk. Yoghurt is gone. Happy living without butter but cheese…. so so hard.

I have found cheese is also the hardest thing to find a substitute for. I am yet to find a supermarket near me that stocks a soy cheese, or a vegan cheese. I’ve got soy yoghurt available if I want it, but no cheese. So I keep turning back to my old friend dairy cheese even though I know I’d be better without it in my body.

So I was excited to do this course as it will open my mind to new ways of cooking (without cheese) and allow me to expand my own vegan recipe list.

The course starts on Monday so you still have time to join – its only 30 days and as advised during the introduction, it is not a challenge or a cleanse, it is a 30 day BREAK for our bodies 🙂

All together now… happy sigh…. 🙂